EARLY BEGINNINGS OF ENCINITAS
Although our Parish is only 75 years old it has a rich Catholic heritage which reaches back before the beginning of the Golden State. In July 1769, having set up a tiny Presidio at San Diego, Don Gaspar de Portola went north with a mounted expedition to find “Monte Rey”. The venerable Padre Junipero Serra remained in San Diego to work on the first Mission. On the third day of their march, the Spaniards found Encinitas. Padre Juan Crespi, OFM, who was with Portola, recorded the event in his diary as follows:
“In about half a league we came to another little valley with many live oaks, where we found a small stream of water, which ran a short way in the midst of some blackberry bushes, where we found another village, which had only six women. We saw that they had some pots and jugs of baked clay well made. We called this place … the spring of the valley of live oaks … “
The valley of las Encinas is halfway between Mission Basilica San Diego and Mission San Luis Rey. For more than 100 years it was an important oasis on the old and dry coastal trail… El Camino Real.
Through the years the long original Spanish name for the valley was shortened to Encinitas, which means “little place with evergreen oaks.” In 1846 Andres Ybarra of San Diego was granted the Rancho Las Encinitas, 4431 acres in and around the valley. The ruins of his adobe hacienda are in a small grove of eucalyptus and cactus, northeast of the junction of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Olivenhain Road. It was a prosperous ranch and stage coach station until the 1880’s when the railroad came through and the old ranch lands were split up. The area is now Stage Coach park.
Encinitas is, by far, the oldest town name in North San Diego County. For this we are indebted to the Franciscans, who brought the Catholic Church to California through the twenty-one Missions that they established.
The Parish was established on February 23, 1946 by The Most Reverend Charles F. Buddy, Bishop of San Diego, to serve the Catholic communities of Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia, and Olivenhain. The First Pastor was Rev. Patrick H. Linneman whose mission was to gather the faithful, acquire land, and build a fitting house of worship.
The total congregation, including children, of the founders numbered about 50. Many of the founding families are still with us. Because of the coastal location and the proximity of Del Mar, the Parish grew significantly, though temporarily, each summer.
After much searching Father Linneman found and acquired a site off of Highway 101 on Melrose Avenue. Building materials at that time were at a premium but after checking out all of the possibilities a bid to the government for $5,100 was made to secure an Army Chapel which was located at Camp Callan, near La Jolla Junction. The Building had to be dismantled and moved. The cost for excavating the basement, reassembling, and furnishing was $42,000
The finished Church, capable of seating 200, seemed rather large for the small Parish, but by the 25th anniversary in 1971 the Parish had grown to 300 registered families comprising more then 800 parishioners.
- Walter and Loretta Adams
- Mary Alice Broderick
- Andy and Helen Brown
- Harold and Eileen Dean
- Preston and Mildred Dean
- Benia Edwards
- Edgar and Anna Faucher
- Russell and Katherine Kundinger
- George Matten
- Herbert and Elizabeth Moore
- Carl and Ann Pohlmann
- Frank and Paulette Schroeder
- Walter and Ruth Vogel
By 1978, the Parish had grown to a registration of 800 families with an expanded congregation in excess of 2500. The obvious need for new facilities was recognized and under the guidance and direction of Msgr. Michael O’Connor an earnest effort to acquire a more central and spacious location was made.
Msgr. O’Connor continued the search for an adequate site to accommodate the Parish needs and in 1979, 12.5 acres was acquired adjacent to Encinitas Blvd. Once the property was purchased, Msgr. O’Connor, who was in declining health, announced his retirement He remained as Pastor Emeritus, continually interested in the progress of the relocation, until his death July 16,1986.
Father Timothy Harnett became Pastor of Saint John on July, 2, 1979, and became the inspiration, architect, fundraiser, facilitator and prime-mover, behind the move of the entire parish facility from Melrose to the new site on Encinitas Blvd.
Over the next few years additional acreage and access to Balour Drive was purchased bring the total Parish site up to 14.83 acres. The ground and new Church site was blessed by Bishop Leo T. Maher on September 9, 1984 and after grading and acquisition of all necessary permits and approvals construction began on April 2, 1987.
The Parish has continued to experience substantial growth and now has a registration of 1900 families with an expanded congregation of over 3000.
The new church is a beautiful and fitting expression of the Parish commitment to the word of God. It has permanent seating for 750 people, parking for 220 cars, and ample space for future expansion and growth. It is progressive in design allowing space, yet providing a natural closeness. Skylights and windows provide excellent natural lighting. Warm uses of oak, marble, tile, and carpeting add to the Church’s Liturgical expression.